U.S. Lawmakers Spar over Abortion Funding in Foreign Aid Bill

By | July 2, 2021

U.S. House Appropriations hearing on the 2022 State and Foreign Operations bill

WASHINGTON DC, July 2 (C-Fam) Democrat lawmakers cleared preliminary hurdles moving the 2022 foreign aid funding bill through committee despite fierce opposition from Republicans for the removal of federal restrictions on overseas abortion funding.

“I wish I could support this bill…but the policy riders are too extreme,” said Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY), ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. The $62B bill for international affairs programs was introduced on Monday, passed through subcommittee on Tuesday and taken up in the full appropriations committee on Thursday.

Rogers criticized “unprecedented” attempts to remove the Helms Amendment, a legislative restriction on U.S. foreign assistance since 1973 stipulating that no funds could be used to pay for abortion as a method of family planning.

The bill would permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy, which blocks funding to overseas abortion groups, even if their abortion activities were paid for by other funding sources. It would weaken language prohibiting funds for coercive abortion or forced sterilization, double funding to the controversial UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and allocate a minimum of $760 million per year to family planning.

Three proposed Republican amendments to restore pro-life protections failed.

“This is the most important amendment we will consider today,” said Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, presenting her amendment that would prohibit all funds in the act from paying for abortion.

“I rise in strong opposition to this amendment to reimpose the Helms amendment that would prevent our foreign assistance from being used for safe abortion services,” said Barbara Lee (D-CA). As chairwoman of the subcommittee, she oversaw the drafting of the foreign aid bill.

“Here we go again,” said Lois Frankel (D-FL), recalling recent efforts to continue blocking federal funding for abortion in the nation’s capital. “Yesterday it was outlawing abortions in D.C., today it’s the world, maybe there’s going to be an amendment later today that will outlaw safe legal abortion on Mars.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) supported Granger’s amendment and denounced attempts to export abortion—a contentious issue in the U.S.—to countries with pro-life cultural norms.  “It smacks of arrogance; it smacks of elitism and Pope Francis has called this ideological colonization.”  Fortenberry echoed other comments by Francis in calling for the U.S. to uphold human dignity and “create an ethos where no person or thing is ever wasted or thrown away.”

Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, also opposed the Granger amendment. DeLauro was formerly an executive director with EMILY’s List, a multi-million-dollar political action committee supporting pro-abortion women seeking political office.

Also failing was an amendment proposed by Congresswoman Ashley Hinsin (R-IA), to restore the Kemp-Kasten amendment and delete language to permanently repeal the Mexico City Policy. “Some 77% of Americans oppose their tax dollars being used for overseas abortion,” said Hinsin, who added that forced abortions and sterilizations are “despicable.”

The third failed amendment introduced by Dr. Andy Harris (R-MD) would have struck funding to UNFPA and removed the minimum spending for international family planning. Harris argued that without pro-life language  $750M would be used to fund abortions around the world. Harris cited UNFPA’s cooperation with the Chinese government, which faces outrage over human rights atrocities against Uighur women, saying that funding is fungible and that the only way to keep U.S. funding from China’s coercive programs is to direct it to bilateral programs rather than multilateral UN agencies.

The repeal of pro-life provisions was expected as both DeLauro and Lee were signatories on a letter sent to President Biden in March asking that his first presidential budget remove all abortion funding restrictions.

The foreign aid bill moves to the full House and is expected to pass though it is doubtful its Senate counterpart will move without pro-life protections. Nonetheless, abortion advocates are claiming the Biden administration has the legal authority to bypass Helms entirely due to waiver language applied to global health programs stipulating that the funds “be made available notwithstanding any other provision of law.”